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UDP wants Probe of Tax Dollars in July’s Music & Food Fest

The United Democratic Party has called for an investigation into the allocation of public funds that will be used for the first Belize International Music & Food Festival. The festival, plans for which was launched by the Belize Tourism Board on Monday, is slated to be held in the last weekend in July. According to the BTB, the event will feature Belizean artists including Supa G, TR Shine, Stig Da Artist and Ernestine Carballo. The international acts will be Koffee, known for her hit “Toast”, Barrington Levy and Patrice Roberts, all from the Caribbean. The UDP argues that much of the million-dollar budget will see local artists getting a minuscule part of the pie. We asked Party Chairman, Senator Michael Peyrefitte to explain the crux of the party’s argument.

Michael Peyrefitte, Chairman UDP: “First of all, when you’re talking about the people’s money, Dale, it’s different you know. Listen. A private individual, a private enterprise can spend and bring in any artist they want and spend any amount of money that they want.  When you’re talking about the people’s money that politicians want to spend, and from what we are hearing, this thing can cost any in the way of, any in the arena of millions of dollars and we don’t know for sure what would be the return to Belizeans on this investment. We don’t know yet. It is being planned with only two months, which experts are telling me is a very very short time. It’s not like people will be flying all over the world to attend this festival. This is different. So, how much you’re spending. Secondly, if you decide that you’re going to spend that, and this is a Belizean Food Festival, what percentage of that are you spending on Belizean artists? Because how are you going to have a food festival and a music festival to showcase Belize when the vast majority of the performers or the performers who will be receiving a minor amount of the funding is Belizean, are Belizeans. It doesn’t make any sense to us. So that is something that is of concern to us. How are our local artists going to benefit? How much money you’re spending? What is the expected return and quite frankly, what do you expect to be the influx of income into the country from this venture?”

In its statement, the UDP has called for every dime used for the event to go to Belizean artists and that concert be free for all Belizeans to enjoy since tax payers are footing the bill. Senator Peyrefitte said that everyone should know on who and what the money is being spent.

Michael Peyrefitte, Chairman UDP: “When you are talking about the Government spending this money, we have to know what our investment is going to be on and we have a right to know what our return is and we have a right to determine what it will be spent on. For example, you’re already trying to pass a law that will tax Belizean artists and then now you come and spit in their face and bring in foreign artists? And from my experience Dale, what I can tell you is for sure. These foreign artists will have in their riders  that whatever taxes they are to pay, will have to be paid by the people who are bringing them in. So these foreign artists will not be paying taxes because it will be in their riders and in their contracts. I can guarantee you that and so only the Belizean artists and DJs who are performing that night will have to pay up to $200. I mean it’s just, it’s just, it’s just maddening that they could do something in such a short time, spend so much money and yet have the least of that allocating to Belizean Artists. The very people who the Government is trying to tax now with this new Trade LIcense. “